Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Cadfael's Places


For British fans of Ellis Peters (nee Elizabeth Parteger), the Cadfael novels, and the television series based on them are firmly planted in the mind as real. But those, like me, born far from there and living in America—and especially those who’re geography-challenged unless we look it up—the town of Shrewsbury in England, in the border region that adjoins Wales to the east, might appear to be a very nice fictional invention. But of course it is real. I began reading those novels roughly twenty years ago. And ever since, off and on, I’ve promised myself to look it up. My pathetic sense of geography had Wales located right next to Scotland somewhere—until Brigitte, yesterday, raised her eyebrows oddly and corrected me. Therefore finally, I looked it up. And the first image I show is a map locating Shropshire, of which Shrewsbury is the central city—as shown in the second map.

The Severn river, which plays such a major role in the Cadfael novels, is clearly shown meandering through Shrewsbury. But since Cadfael’s times, what we’d call a beltway curves beneath the city, a so-called ‘A’ Road—which, heading toward the east becomes M54, something we’d call a freeway. As for the Severn, what follows is a view of it. The picture is taken from Shrewsbury castle, looking south. In the distance is Shrewsbury; not quite visible to the far left is the Shrewsbury abbey. The water is flowing toward the photographer here, thus to the north.


The last novel I’ve recently re-read was The Raven in the Foregate. The foregate is a triangular area surrounding the abbey of Shrewsbury, still functioning as a church today. The only picture I’ve managed to get of the foregate itself shows an image taken when it was flooded in November 2000; the Severn can still be unruly. In that picture I notice a half-submerged red telephone booth. Or is it? In the dimensions where I am fully at home, that red structure might well be the Tardis temporarily stopping so that Dr. Who could take a look at the damage and lend a hand in restoring back to pristine order one of my favored fictional town-scapes. The second image shows the awesome interior of the Shrewsbury Abbey where the abbots Heribert and Radulfus, the real abbots and the fictional, presided over the faithful in the years 1128 through 1147.


My pictures come from Wikipedia’s pages on Shropshire, Shrewsbury, and Shrewsbury Cathedral. Clicking on the images will enlarge them. My next project, in this nexus, will be to understand the civil war between King Stephen and Empress Maud…

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